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Parenting Spike: The seriously difficult child- Hanging Out With The Wrong Crowd

by Andrew D. Gibson, Ph.D.


Spike has friends. Spike is ten years old and a behavioral tsunami. That means, he doesn’t hang around the house any more than he needs to. He resents his parents so he makes himself scarce as a way of coping. It would, of course, be better if he hung around and tried to make things better but that isn’t the way the behaviorally disturbed think. So he exits.

badkidsSpike exits to a place that he thinks is safer; his friends. His friends are not gems, not by any means. They all have their dysfunctions. They all have their psychiatric diagnoses. They all have been dragged from program to program by their parents in an attempt to straighten them out. The dragging didn’t work. They all find one another as a kind of bottom feeding refuge. These kids are all losers; they are not tolerated by the normally adjusted peers. They live in a limbo that has labeled them as part rejected and part neglected. They have reputations as bad boys and bad girls. The good boys seek out the bad girls for a little slumming. The bad boys find their own bad girls.

Everyone needs someone. They are few genuine hermits out there. So these kids gravitate towards one another. They are various ages, genders and levels of craziness. It doesn’t matter. They can’t be real choosy. They are at or near the bottom of the social barrel.

These kids aren’t the hoped-for influences on one another that parents would prefer, although in large part these kids are secrets. They aren’t often brought around the house. They certainly don’t stay for supper when they do come by. As a result, parents don’t know a lot about these kids but what they do know they don’t like.

Parents are powerless to do much of anything about these companions in delinquency though they tend to act as though they do by saying silly things like, “I don’t want you hanging around with Zeke!” as though that has an ounce of impact.

The good news is that the bottom feeders are often temporary. The bad news is that temporary is largely in the hands of parents. The way that parents react to Spike, in general, makes all the difference in the world. If they chose to react, whether he is nasty or kind, in always the same, low-keyed, non-judgmental way, they will find that Spike will respond. As he gets more confidence he will gravitate away from this group.

Spike won’t give his pals up because his parents tell him to. He will give them up if you can strip away any sense of threat, criticism or rejection. It is a big job but it is a doable job.


About The Author


Dr. Andrew Gibson was born in Detroit at the close of WWII. He grew up in the midst of farming country in central Michigan. Both parents were teachers. He keeps a picture of his childhood companion, Wags, to this day (you had to see the tail to appreciate the name). After discharge from the Navy after the Viet Name war, he graduated with a BA and MA from San Diego State University and earned his Ph. D from the University of Connecticut. He has taught at Portland State University, n Portland Oregon, at the University of Maine, Presque Isle and at SUNY New Paltz. He resides in Eastern Connecticut, with his wife of 41 years, where he conducts a private practice in parenting seriously difficult children. His book “Got An Angry Kid? Parenting Spike-A Seriously Difficult Child’ is the first of a series examining seriously difficult children at various age and emotional disturbance levels. He invites you to find him on the web at

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